Rounding out my turnkey package were the Ortofon Cadenza Bronze and 6NX TSW-1010 tonearm cable ($2000 option). The Cadenza Bronze incorporates the same Ortofon Replicant 100 stylus used in the top Ortofons—including the MC Anna, MC A90, MC Windfeld, and Xpression—but uses a tapered aluminum cantilever instead of the boron one that these others have.
The Woodpecker package arrived in a double-boxed carton. After quickly checking the box for damage (there was none), I set it aside, unopened, until Stirling Trayle of VANA arrived a few weeks later to assist in setup. Assembly went rather quickly. Stirling has a system for alignment he’s been fine-tuning for some time that uses the Acoustical Systems SMARTractor protractor. He set up a custom UNI-DIN alignment that I could compare to a Baerwald alignment later when I changed cartridges. When the setup was completed and Stirling was happy with the sound, we declared it done.
Since I had an additional Arché headshell for the review, Stirling wanted to hear one of my cartridges before leaving, so we quickly and roughly mounted my van den Hul Colibri. (I said roughly because we ran into a snag that I’ll get to later.) Even with this rough mounting, I could clearly hear the characteristics of the Colibri through the Woodpecker, which gave me an early indication that the ’table seemed capable of providing a solid foundation to build an analog system around.
After a few weeks of listening to the Woodpecker/Cadenza Bronze combination, I changed the alignment for Baerwald instead of the UNI-DIN set during initial installation. This gave me the opportunity to take a close look at the SRA and adjust the headshell closer to the setting I prefer as a base starting point when installing cartridges. To get to that starting point I needed to raise the SRA of the tonearm. As the Arché headshell only allowed near-level-and-lower SRA settings, I literally had to “raise” the rear of the tonearm (easy to do with the Jelco) to get the increased SRA I desired. With the Jelco tonearm raised several millimeters, I was able to set my new baseline.
With this new ’arm height and alignment, sonic results were surprisingly good. Looking back, I wondered what the UNI-DIN alignment might have sounded like with my new SRA setting, but I couldn’t go back to the original setup since I didn’t have a SMARTractor on hand. With this SRA-adjusted Baerwald setting, the Cadenza Bronze began to show traces of the richer tone color that only the MC Anna has prominently displayed in the Ortofon lineup. I listened to this combination playing back a variety of jazz, classical, pop, blues, and rock for several weeks. During this time, the Cadenza Bronze in the Woodpecker package proved to be quite enjoyable.
After putting the Woodpecker package through its paces with the turnkey cartridge/tonearm/cable option provided by VANA, I tried a series of tonearm cables I had on hand, and ended up preferring a Graham IC-70. This cable opened up the presentation and exposed more inner detail without any added harshness that I could detect. Most instruments took on a speed and clarity that proved the turnkey cable had been somewhat sluggish on initial attacks. With the Graham tonearm cable, the Woodpecker package, including the Cadenza Bronze cartridge, moved forward in performance by a noticeable margin.